News Column

Time Magazine Cover Photographer: Image Patterned After 'Madonna and Child'

May 11, 2012

Rob Manker

Time magazine

The photographer who shot the controversial Time magazine cover of a nearly 4-year-old boy standing and suckling at the breast of his 26-year-old mother says the pose was patterned after images of the "Madonna and Child."

Vaughan Hannigan Artists in New York represents the photographer who shot the cover image, Martin Schoeller. As part of that shoot, Schoeller also photographed members of three other families from across the country, modeling the poses after depictions of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, according to Vaughan Hannigan.

"When you think of breast-feeding, you think of mothers holding their children, which was impossible with some of these older kids," Schoeller said Friday in an emailed statement. "I liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation."

The cover illustrates a story about 72-year-old pediatrician Dr. William Sears with a photo of Jamie Lynne Grumet of California gazing at the camera nearly expressionless and her preschool-age son perched at her bosom.

Headline: "Are you mom enough?"

The story discusses Sears' support of attachment parenting, a controversial approach to child development that promotes practices such as baby wearing (carrying a baby close in a slinglike cloth carrier), co-sleeping and extended breast-feeding.

Related Story: "Time Magazine's Breastfeeding Cover Sparks Controversy"

The cover photo has been rocketing through social media circles for more than a day, with screeds, pleas and jokes in tow. Commenters are weighing in on all sides of related issues -- parental rights, child advocacy and media sensationalism, to name a few.

"Time magazine" and "Time breast-feeding" were fixtures atop the list of hottest Google searches Friday morning after Grumet appeared on NBC's "Today" show.

"I understand some of the breast-feeding advocates are actually upset about this because I feel like (the pictures) don't show the nurturing side to attachment parenting," Grumet said. "This isn't how we breast-feed at home.

"It's more of a cradling, nurturing situation. And I understand what they're saying, but I do understand why Time chose this picture ..."

Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel discussed the selection Thursday morning while introducing the cover on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"The point of a cover is to get your attention," he said, "and this gets your attention."

The story itself is about attachment parenting, of which Sears became a guru after writing "The Baby Book" with his wife Martha in 1992.

"He wants you to spend every waking moment, and pretty much every sleeping moment, with your baby," Stengel said.

"What about Octomom or the Duggars?" "The View" co-host Joy Behar quipped. "Are they supposed to sleep with all their children?"

Nancy Mohrbacher, an officer with the Chicago Area Breastfeeding Coalition, said the cover has sparked the wrong questions.

"The question is not are you mom enough, but is our culture family friendly enough," Mohrbacher said. "The question is not how should we parent, but how do we support and value parenting in our society."

"One of the reasons there can be a conflict with attachment parenting in our culture is we don't have family-friendly environments. It's not part of our culture. We're expected to have a strict dichotomy between family and the rest of our lives."

But is the Time cover attempting to promote those conversations, or just trying to stand out at a tough time for magazines? Or both?

"For all the talk about the death of print, there are still hordes of magazines cluttering newsstands, and everyone is jockeying for position, screaming at passersby 'Pick me! Pick me!,'" Charles Whitaker, magazine professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, said Friday morning via email.

"That is especially true for a legacy title like Time, which does not have a tight niche and, as a result, has seen huge drops in circulation and needs to try new gimmicks to draw attention to itself."



Source: (c)2012 the Chicago Tribune